Do you think you could tell the truth from a lie? Could you lie to save your life? What exactly is truth? These are the questions being asked in the bold new interactive work 'TRUTHMACHINE'.
'TRUTHMACHINE' is the latest work from Counterpilot, a creative collective which experiments with new applications of technology. This time, they've set their sights on the humble polygraph machine, commonly known as a lie detector.
“It's a roomful of strangers, so up to twelve audience members, and one of those audience members is going to take a lie detector test. Everyone else will act as the jury that assesses them,” Counterpilot Director and Co-Founder Nathan Sibthorpe explains.
It's a concept grounded in the recent notion of 'post-truth' as well as the advent of so-called 'alternative facts' and 'fake news'.
“We were really interested in this idea of post-truth which was the word of the year by Oxford Dictionary , and around the age of Trump where nothing is quite as it seems. We were really interested in this idea of whether truth would ever have its day, whether truth would ever actually come out and find us in the end.
“Particularly with things like the Russia investigation and this sense that we're all a little bit in the dark and we have more questions than answers, and maybe that's just what life is in 2019. Playing with this idea of 'if there is a truth, what's there?'”
In wanting to explore these ideas, Nathan's own interest in the polygraph machine as an accurate measure of truth came to bear the work's technological element.
Image © Dave D'Arcy
“At the same time I came across the history of the polygraph machine, which is a story that really interested me because it's so contentious,” he says.
“It is really controversial that the polygraph was this formal scientific instrument that was used for legal purposes. It was used in courts and by police investigators, and it's not that it's been completely knocked off its shelf, but it is scientifically disproven; it's not actually an accurate tool, is where we are now.
“It can be manipulated pretty easily, so even if you've got something to hide there's a whole industry of people who can train you to beat the polygraph machine, and that idea of beating the machine is this challenge that's been the genesis of our show, trying to overcome truth by beating a polygraph test.”
Think you've got what it takes? Find out for yourself when 'TRUTHMACHINE' comes to Horizon Festival (also Brisbane Festival later in the year). Come face to face with the truth and a council of strangers to see if you can 'beat the machine'.
“The show is only 20 minutes long,” Nathan says.
“The idea is that you can fit this into your night before or after something else at the festival. Everyone in the room sits around this very formal table configuration and everyone has a console with lights and switches that influence the outcome.
“One person will be chosen, we have our official interrogator that hosts the official event, the person is strapped into the machine and everyone else listens to a soundscape of their results via headphones. Everyone's always listening to a rich soundscape but once the person is hooked up, that soundscape is influenced by their heartbeat, their breathing patterns, their skin response – that becomes the dynamic media design directly connected to their body and physiological response.”